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Rendille women dancing - Kenya by Eric Lafforgue on Flickr.

Rendille women dancing - Kenya

When Rendile women dance, one goes in front and shakes her necklaces, then another one comes around and her. A kind of tenderness gesture but made with violence!

The Rendille: Pushed away by their neighbours, they henceforth inhabit a vast territory : from the Kaisut Desert to the east (one of Kenya’s most arid regions) to the shores of Lake Turkana to the west and the Chalbi Desert to the north.They are semi-nomadic, that is to say both nomad and pastoralist. Clans live in temporary settlement called gobs. Gobs are usually near dug wells and are given the name of the clan, subclan or the elder of the family. The Rendille never stay long at the same place to look for water sources and pasturing areas. They have to move 3 to 5 times a year. Villages are typically made of two dozen houses with about 120 individuals. They are composed of a group of semi-spherical huts made of branches and covered with leather or canvas. Women are in charge of taking the houses apart and putting them back in the new location. Near the huts, an enclosure of crabbed branches protects camels for the night. Each kind of animal they keep (camels, sheeps, goats, cattle) have a separate camp that is taken cared of by people of a different age-set. Unlike other pastoral tribes, the Rendille favour camels rather than cattle, because they are better suited to the environment. The Rendille depend heavily on these animals for many of their daily needs: food, milk, clothing, trade and transport. The Rendille are skilled craftsmen and make many different decoration or ornaments. The warriors often wear proudly a distinctive visor-like hairstyle, dyed with red ochre. As for the women, they wear several kilos beads. The Rendille receive empooro engorio beaded collars for marriage, made of palm fibers, girafe or elephant hairs. Like the Maasai with cows, camels are bled in order to drink their blood. The Rendille are closely aligned with the Samburu, by economic and kinship’s ties. They have often adopted their language. Marriage is not allowed within one’s own clan, and is arranged by parents as for most tribes. Each wife lives in her own home with her children, and mothers have a high status. Society is strongly bound by family ties. The Rendille still believe in their God, called Wak or Ngai. They also have fortune-tellers who predict the future, and perform sacrifices to make it rain. Special ceremonies take place at a child’s birth. A ewe or goat is sacrificed if it is a girl, a ram if a boy. The girl is blessed 3 times while 4 for the boy. In the same way, mother drinks blood for 3 days for a babygirl, 4 days for a babyboy. The weeding ceremony takes time. The prospective groom must give the bridewealth (gunu) to the bride’s family: 4 female and 4 male camels (half for the father, the remaining camels for the rest of the family). One of them is eaten at the ceremony. The bride wears jewellery made of glass and metal, necklaces of beads and wire, headbands, and a large circular earings. She will join her husband’s family after marriage. The elders discuss problems in a ritual circle called Nabo, in which women are allowed to enter. They also meet there to pray, receive guests and perform ceremonies.

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